This was our first Princess cruise, and we decided to book the Ruby Princess because it was a new ship, and the reviews were generally good. We arrived in Ft. Lauderdale 2 days prior to sailing, and we stayed at the Holiday Inn. The hotel accommodations were average and overpriced,but Ok for a pre-cruise stay.
The embarkation went pretty well. We took a chartered bus from the hotel, and we arrived at Port Everglades by 11:30 AM. We were herded into a huge room with a large number of people and not enough seating! After a 30-45 minute wait, everyone filed out of the room in groups and were then dispatched to registration stations. We were then allowed onto the ship and we were in our room by about 12;45 PM. We found our way to the buffet for lunch, and we got an unpleasant taste of what to expect during most of the trip-unbearable crowds and lines! It felt like we were standing in line forever before we got our lunch, and then it took quite a while to find a place to sit!
My luggage arrived at the room within a few hours, but my wife's luggage did not arrive at all! By 5;00Pm, I complained to our cabin steward, and he went to look for the luggage. He could not find it, and he suggested that I go to the purser. The purser suggested I wait and return at 7 PM before anything could be done. Since dinner was at 6 PM, I returned at 5:40 PM and told the purser I wished to check the luggage room myself. The purser then pointed to a group of 8 suitcases sitting in the open and unprotected about 50 feet away. I checked the suitcases, and I found my wife's suitcase(WITHOUT A LUGGAGE TAG)!! The purser said the luggage would be delivered to our cabin, but I refused and dragged it to the cabin myself!
The ship itself is absolutely gorgeous and generally spotless. The crew and staff were from many different nations, and most were hardworking, friendly, and courteous. I am sorry to say that the only rudeness we encountered came from crew and employees from the US. For us, there were just too many passengers on board. We constantly encountered lines, and we had difficulty finding chairs for lounging and tables at which to eat. Another complaint was the constant smell of tobacco. Even though smoking is forbidden in many areas, we constantly were irritated by the smell of tobacco in all parts of the ship, but mainly in the cabin hallways and on the decks. For us, the problem was intolerable!
There were passengers of all ages, but mainly under 45. There were numerous teenagers and children on board, many of them out of control. Also, there was no shortage of constantly crying babies!
The main dining rooms were quite uncomfortable with an extremely high noise level, a feeling of crowdedness, and perpetually crying children. The service was good, but the food was remarkably below average-extremely rich with little taste! After trying the main dining room for several nights, we finally gave up and started eating dinner at the buffet. The food at the buffet was much better-average to above average, and the noise level was tolerable. The breakfasts and the lunches at the buffet were fine. One thing that bothered me was to be charged for ice cream! Room service was pretty good, but not enough variety on the menu! We did not eat in the specialty restaurants.
We stayed in what is described as a mini-suite( more expensive and slightly larger than a balcony stateroom)). The cabin was beautiful, comfortable, and spacious, but whoever designed the balcony must have been on drugs! Our balcony had no covering, and it was totally visible to numerous other balconies above and around us! So much for privacy! Also, we had no protection from the elements(sun, wind, rain) and no protection from the horrible tobacco smoke! There were smokers occupying the cabins above us and on both sides of us. I do not understand why there cannot be a group of cabins set aside for non-smokers! I should add that our cabin steward was great! He did his best to meet our needs, and he was always friendly and courteous!
The entertainment was OK, but I do not understand why the music has to be so loud. The loudness of the sound around the pool, in the lounges, and in the Princess Theater is guaranteed to injure one's hearing apparatus! The Movie Under The Stars is a good concept, but its sound is also too loud. The sound was disturbing enough in the immediate area of the movie screen, but it could be heard in all outdoors areas of the ship, thus destroying the evening ambience. There is certainly not enough seating in the Princess Theater. People began arriving 45-60 minutes before the shows, and there were usually no seats available by 20-30 minutes before the shows were to begin. We finally gave up and stopped trying to attend the shows! I should also add that the cruise and entertainment director was too ever present, obtrusive, and a bit annoying. S he finally began getting on our nerves! The "street performers" in the Piazza were entertaining and enjoyable(although it was annoying that some of the acts lasted only 5 minutes!)
The Ports of Call were less than desirable, and for us, not an attraction. Because of the crowds,waiting for the tenders became quite irritating!
The disembarkation went fairly well, but we were forced off the ship by 8 AM. It seems we should have been given an extra hour at least to relax and enjoy breakfast! We booked a transfer to the airport through Princess. We stood in line for an hour waiting for a bus. After I originally booked the cruise, I had asked Princess representatives what time I should expect to be picked up by a bus. No one could(would) give me an answer. To be safe, I therefore booked a late flight, and we had to sit at the airport for quite awhile.
For the reasons described above, we were generally disappointed on our first(and last) Princess cruise. In summary, our principal complaints were with luggage disposition, disappointing food, disappointing ports, too many people, long lines, too much tobacco exposure,crowded and noisy dining room, terrible stateroom balcony design,loudness of music and inability to attend shows because of not enough seats. The positives were as follows: beautiful ship,wonderful crew and staff, nice entertainment in the Piazza, and nice cabin(except for the balcony!)